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<nettime> Books I Like
Alan Sondheim on Sun, 26 Jun 2005 11:50:05 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Books I Like

Books I Like,

with an apology at the end, reiterated here, for the length of this,
occasioned (as will be said) by a backlog created by travel. Enjoy!

Five Years of My Life, Alfred Dreyfus, George Newnes, London, 1901. This
is of course translated from the French. I found this copy in Copperton, a
mining town in Utah; I didn't know the book existed. It's an amazing read
- a compilation of letters, diary notes, commentary, and so forth - all in
a somewhat 19th-century sentimentalist style. It's absolutely fascinating,
and given the current political climate, pretty relevant. If you can find
a copy, pick one up.

Practical Radio, Henry Smith Williams, Funk and Wagnalls, 1922-24. I've
quoted from this work before, particularly in relation to hacking. Early
radio accounts parallel Net accounts - similar historiographies at times -
and make for interesting reading, in terms of early popular media global-
ization. Radio up through the early 20s was highly experimental, although
stations quickly came on board. Early radio books, by the way, are fairly
inexpensive. One practical use - build some of the sets; there are numerous
diagrams and suggestions for crystal radio, etc.

Firefox Hacks, Tips and Tools for Next-Generation Web Browsnig, Nigel
McFarlane, O'Reilly, 2005. This book is of course based on the popular
alternative web browser, which is both open-source and highly
configurable. I'm not sure who - except for hackers and web artists -
would benefit from this book - but there is a great deal of useful
information. The chapters range from "Getting Oriented," which stresses
the home-user aspect of Firefox, through "Power Tools for Web Developers"
and "Power XML for Web Pages" - both of which are excellent. I'm more
interested in the "Hack the Chrome Ugly" and "Hack the Chrome Cleanly"
sections which cover such things as "Build an Installable Theme" and
"Create a Chrome Package." The last chapter, "Work more Closely with
Firefox," contains sections on "Get a Custom, Prebuilt Version," and "Make
Firefox Software" which suggest stand-alone conceptual browsing within
everyone's reach and expertise. In any case I'm fascinated by these sorts
of books, highly software-based, which might outdate quickly, but for just
a moment give insight and instruction to anyone who reads them.

(DEBUG.), Primary Techno Noir, edited by Kenji Siratori, iUniverse, 2004,
is one of the most beautifully-produced books I've seen in a while - so
much so that the packaging almost contradicts the scruffed content, most
of which was written, I assume, by Kenji. The cover image is by
rustgirl.com - a site connected with Kenji, with incredibly striking
images. I'm still fascinated by Kenji's work which seems both algorithm-
ically produced, and _written_ letter by letter. As such it occupies the
same space it describes. Highly recommended.

Boswell's Life of Johnson, just about any unabridged edition. This is a
work I keep dipping into; it's probably the first palimpsest postmodern
work in English, Shandy etc. notwithstanding. And it is an amazingly
interesting text; Johnson 'comes alive' in a manner I haven't seen before
- it's almost as if one were talking to the man, whose opinions by the way
are often conservative and overblown. To listen to 18th-century chatter is
to listen to 20th-century email. The strategies and psychology of the
correspondence between the two men is all too familiar. A second work I've
been reading, somewhat along the same line - Lord Byron, Selected Prose,
edited by Peter Gunn, a Penguin Book from 1972. Don Juan may be my
favorite English poem; this book gives of course a background. I feel I
know the Shelley's well - I'd talk with them on the street - but Byron is
increasingly a mystery.

Songs of Gold Mountain, Cantonese Rhymes from San Francisco Chinatown,
Marlon K. Hom, California, 1987. If you find this, check it out; there is
so little material available from the immigration period, in English, for
the general reader. These Songs are wonderful.

A Treasury of War Poetry, British and American Poems of the World War,
1914-1917, edited by George Herbert Clarke, published 1917, reprinted
since. Alan Seeger's I have a Rendezvous with Death is horrifying and
utterly brilliant; he died in the war. The book is a mixture of the not-
yet-realized death-throes of imperialism and the sustained coherent world
of the 19th-century (at least for some), patriotism, and undercurrents of
absolute despair. I've been keeping this by the bedside.

Tales of a Long Night, Alfred Doblin, translated by Robert and Rita
Kimber, Fromm International, 1984. I found this a broken searing novel -
wanted to draw attention to it. I prefer it to Berlin Alexanderplatz; on
the levels of mythos and reality, philosophical issues of war and thera-
peutics, sexuality and family disintegration - it's perhaps the strongest
work I've read in years.

Test Driving Linux, From Windows to Linux in 60 Seconds, David Brickner,
O'Reilly, 2005. Complete with CD, this book is the best introduction to
linux for someone who is curious about the operating system, but is
nervous about installation, or whether it's worth it at all. The CD allows
the user to run a sample linux installation from the disk alone. You can
only benefit. The book gives information on how to proceed further - what
types or distributions of linux to install, how to go about it, etc. Just
about everything is covered, from email through image manipulation. The
book is $25 which is reasonably cheap, given the contents.

The Namban Art of Japan, Yoshitomo Okamoto, Weatherhill, 1972. A primary
analysis of acculturation, up-to-date as a result of extensive illustra-
tion. Namban art refers to largely 16-th century works produced in Japan
as a result of European (primarily Portugeuse/Japanese cultural contact.
I'm fascinated by the cultural mirrorings that occur at this point, as
well as around the 1850s-1870s. I think the world revolves around these
(pre)(mis)conceptions of the O(o)ther - enough that critical theorists
should be familiar with this material.

Don't Click on the Blue E, Switching to Firefox, Scott Granneman,
O'Reilly, 2005. This is a strange book; it will be useful to anyone who
wants to know more about what's under the Firefox hood, particularly in
relation to Internet Explorer. And Firefox is amazingly configurable, etc.
- the book gives detailed information. On the other hand, if you are
computer-savvy, you wouldn't need this at all. Its readership, in other
words, seems to be a bit odd; I'm not sure where the market is. In any
case, there is useful information on customization, multimedia plugins,
bookmarks and tabs, etc. However, if you do know what you're doing, check
out the Firefox Hacks (above); it's much more detailed.

As is Linux Desktop Hacks, Tips and Tools for Customizing and Optimizing
your OS, by Nicholas Petreley and Jono Bacon, O'Reilly, 2005. I have to
admit I haven't used this yet, but the information is mind-boggling and
when I finally get Mandrake 10+ into a more useful configuration, I'll be
working the book. It covers a lot more than KDE or Gnome; there is
information in fact on the entire operating system - for example, con-
figuring the terminal window. multiple screens, and X11 startup; working
with cron (which automates tasks in a variety of ways); and using GPS
software. The hacks are sophisticated and require sophisticated use of the
terminal. I can only recommend this on the basis of a read, but it seems

O'Reilly has also come out with the 2nd edition of Windows XP Annoyances
for Geeks, David Karp, 2005; and the 2nd edition of Windows XP Hacks, Tips
and Tools for Optimizing Your OS, Preston Gralla, 2005. Both of these are
seriously essential. WinXP is incredibly slow, bloated, full of
unnecessary balloons, 'help,' animations, clumsy IE stuff - in short,
everything designed to drive one crazy. I'm on an artist residency at the
Grand Central Art Center in Santa Ana, California, at the moment; Cal
State Fullerton (which runs the place) gave me three PCs to use (plus my
own). They're all WinXP PCs, and the first thing I did, out of dire
necessity, was to reconfigure them. I strongly advise anyone to get these
manuals if they're using WinXP for anything other than mail (no, even if
they're using it only for mail). Both of these books are second edition,
by the way, which are vastly different than the first, and more useful.

Finally, to round out the O'Reilly material, a book that is really of use
for codework (I just realized that 'a book ... for codework' doesn't make
sense but it's late in the day) is Classic Shell Scripting, Arnold Robbins
and Nelson H.F. Beebe, 2005. I use a linux/bsd/darwin/unix/whatever shall
almost all the time, although I'm lazy (this is written in the Pico
editor). This books will steer you through shell scripts better than any-
thing else; couple it with a linux/unix/etc. handbook and you're all set.
The shell has always amazed and fascinated me; it's the condensation of a
potential field, a monopole at the cursor, lost at sea without pulldown
menus. The book will cover it all.

The Noh Drama, Ten Plays from the Japanese, translated by the Special Noh
Committee, Tuttle, 1955. Noh is my 'favorite drama,' and has influenced my
work to a great extent. These translations are wonderful, although the
kyogen interludes are only summarized. The book has been reprinted; I'm
not sure what the most recent edition is.

Japan Today, Dr. Shodo Taki, Tuttle, 1952. You can find this book of
photographs (very little text), made primarily for the 'Occupation
forces,' at various used bookstores. Like the Namban book, this presents
images of O(o)ther that are highly relevant today.

Max Weber's The Religion of China (Free Press, 1951) appears the result of
misrecognitions and over-generalization; on the other hand, it's valuable
as symptomatic for the same reasons.

Two books on Buddhism: The Manuals of Buddhism, Ledi Sayadaw, Bangkok,
1978; and The Perfection of Wisdom in Eight Thousand Lines & Its Verse
Summary, translated by Edward Conze, Four Seasons, 1973 (reprint 1995).
These are two of my favorite books on Buddhism; the former, although
obscure, is available online in its entirety, and provides one of the best
accountings (not elementary) of Buddhist philosophy, cosmology, and so
forth. The translations are from Pali and Burmese. Sayadaw lived from
1846-1923, and was a major Buddhist philosopher/thinker. Although the
language is technical, the book is clear, intense, encompassing. The
Perfection of Wisdom, from South India at the turn of the 0th millennium,
is a major text I should have known but didn't. The translation is lovely,
and the Sutras are great; the Verse Summary stands alone and reminds me of
the quietude of Han Shan. (Please understand I don't know what I'm talking

Since I've been 'doing' VLF recording for all sorts of reasons, I've been
trying to find useful books on the subject. Well, there's one, from the
1950s, going for over $100, although Dover will release it for something
like $16 in 2006. In the meantime, I have Joseph Carr's RadioScience
Observing, Volume I, with CD, Prompt Publications, 1998. This is really
scattered in its approach to the subject, but there is good material which
supplements what's online. I'm not satisfied with what I've found online
either - there are dozens, probably hundreds, of useful sites, for example
NASA's INSPIRE project, which is one of the most important. I've supple-
mented this book with The ARRL Antenna Book, 20th edition, published by
the American Radio Relay League. This probably four kilo monster comes
with a CD as well, and has over 600-700 pages of material - so detailed,
I'm lost but fascinated. There's something magnificent about radio
antennas, which puncture the atmosphere, gather and invisible/inaudible/
imperceptible, and transform it into the usual AM/FM nonsense, not to
mention CB and shortwave. For any sort of specialized work, the book is
completely essential; there is nothing else like it. (Don't pay full price
btw; it's available 2nd-hand online). I also found The Arrl Antenna
Compendium, Volume 2, at a local used bookstore. It dates from 1989 and is
filled with articles such as Sunspots, Flares, and HF Propagation; Visual
Phenomena of the Ionosphere; Balloons as Antenna Supports; and Antenna
Selection Guide.

By the way the ARRL antenna book CD has amazing programs on it, that cover
all sorts of things, for example, ground waves and reception in hilly and
other terrain - you can use this with mappings of specific locales.

Let's remind ourselves that Semiotexte did Radiotext(e) in 1993, edited by
Neil Strauss, and there is a lot of great information in it.

The culture is moving too fast; what is remembered is remained, is

Although from 2003, The Iraq War Reader, History, Documents, Opinions,
edited by Micah L. Sifry and Christopher Cerf, Touchstone, isn't out of
date - it confirms and reconfirms the horror we're living within/under.
The articles on the absence of bodies and Iraq's nuclear program (there
was one) are frightening; the former is almost Ballardesque in its
exposition of denial, which continues to this day.

I want to recommend Modernity, Culture, and the Jew, edited by Bryan
Cheyette and Larua Marcus, Stanford, 1998. Articles on Weininger,
Svengali, Habermas, Lyotard, Primo Levi, etc., by Bhaba, Bennington,
Marcus, Bauman, etc. This is an area that has concerned me for years, and
the book is a really excellent resource. Another work I love is Nachum T.
Gidal, Jews in Germany, From Roman Times to the Weimar Republic, Konemann,
1998, which almost appears like a coffee-table book, but isn't; instead
it's a detailed account, with close to a thousand images, of Ashkenazi
life and culture. The work means a lot to me, perhaps for obvious reasons.

Finally, I want to reiterate that Penrose's The Road to Reality, A
Complete Guide to the Laws of the Universe, is the most amazing book on
physics I've read, and should be attempted by anyone interested in the
current theorization of physical (and perhaps every other) reality. I have
to say 'attempted' because the mathematics is difficult, although Penrose
explains everything, at least on the level of principles. And, since this
work touches on the heart of analog/digital issues (in the discussion of
the wave equation), I also want to mention, finally finally, the very old
work by Edward Huntington, The Continuum and Other Types of Serial Order,
1917, which gives a simple typology of seriality, something to build upon.

I hope this material is of use; I apologize again for the length, but I
have had a backlog of materials to review, since I was traveling for quite
a while.

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